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The history of stamps

Read and watch a video to find out about the interesting history of stamps.

Have you ever wondered when stamps were first used and why?

The idea of "marking" letters began in Great Britain in 1661, when a special mark was stamped on letters to show they had been received by the post office.

Play the "Stamps – why collect them?" video at the bottom of the page to check out some great historical information about stamps.

Penny Black

In 1840 the "Penny Black" was the first stamp ever to be released. It was called the "Penny Black" because, you guessed it, it cost one penny and it was black! This stamp showed that the sender of the letter had paid the postage. Before this, postage costs were paid by the person receiving the letter.


In Australia we used postmarks from as early as 1812, but it was not until 1850 that people were asked to pay the postage on their letters before they were sent. By 1860 every state, or colony in Australia had stamps.

Kangaroo Map

The first national stamp release in Australia was in 1913. The stamp featured a kangaroo on a map of Australia.

Although the main use for stamps today is to pay postage, Australian stamps have become well known throughout the world for their unusual and amazing designs. The history of Australia can be traced through its commemorative stamps, on which all aspects of Australian culture, as well as our natural heritage, have been illustrated.

History Video

Stamps - why collect them? (Video)

Why collect Stamps? | Play Video

Play the video (Flash, 6.7mb) to check out some great information about stamps, why people collect them and Stamp Collecting Month.